Hunter offered the 27 with the option of either an inboard engine with all the standard options one would expect, or a outboard engine with just the basics. Since I have the outboard option I had the very limited electrical system that only included the lights (cabin, nav, anchor, steaming), and a single “accessory” circuit for everything else.
As you can see this did not give many options for expansion or capabilities. Hunter only provided a small enclosure that was just large enough to fit the small original panel, so before any upgrades could be done I had to make space for a larger panel. That was accomplished through the same carpenter that made the companionway slat holders and rebuilt the galley after the fire. He took the old enclosure as a pattern and built a new one to the width of the available space. I varnished the enclosure to match the rest of the interior. The enclosure was actually completed late summer in 2010, so this project has been in the works for a while.
Now that I had the enclosure I had to find a new panel that fit my needs. I went through the panels made by Blue Sea Systems but had trouble finding anything that fit the space and has enough breaker positions. Most of the panels available are taller than they are wide, not wider than they are tall. This made the options pretty slim unless I went for one of the modular panels like the Blue Sea 360 Series, which are considerably more expensive than I was looking to spend. Eventually I stumbled upon Bass Products, who happen to be a local company. I gave them a call to discuss what panels they had that would fit my space and requirements, and ended up speaking directly with the owner Tony. He had one panel that had the number of breakers I wanted as well as fit the space I had.
The panel came standard with a analog voltmeter and ammeter. I really am not too worried about what I am drawing from the batteries, I’m going to use what I need when I need it, and therefore an ammeter isn’t going to change how I do anything. I often had the need to plug in more than one 12v plug for things like charging of cell phones, and ended up with a Y adapter always hanging out of the 12v socket, so I asked Tony to replace the ammeter with a 12v socket. I printed out a mock panel in actual size to ensure it would fit.
I realized that before I could install the panel I should do some upgrades to the electrical distribution system and add a battery switch. While doing the distribution system upgrade I found that the primary cable from the batteries to the panel was originally only 10AWG so that also needed to be upgraded before I could install the new panel. I ran new 6AWG cable from the main distribution buss bars to the new panel and 16AWG duplex cable for the voltmeter to read each battery voltage.
Bass Products agreed to install and wire a push to reset fuse for the automatic side of the bilge pump circuit, a temporary manual switch for the bilge pump, the 12v outlet, and all the different sized breakers, and for ~25% less than the closest comparable panel from Blue Sea Systems.
I used my mock panel printout as a the template for cutting the opening for the enclosure, cut out the opening for the panel and the inverter remote switch.
The old panel was all wire disconnects which would pull off whenever you tried to work on the panel. I had to crimp new connectors as the new panel uses all #10 screws for the positive and #8 screws for the negative connections. This is nice since you cannot attach a negative wire to any of the positive outputs. All that was left was to install the enclosure and hook everything up. The actual installation was pretty fast, and only took about an hour and a half including the time to strip and crimp the new connectors.
Just for comparison I put the old panel next to the new one, it’s a big improvement if I do say so myself!
On the side of the enclosure that you cannot see in the picture I installed the remote switch for the inverter and a 2nd 12v outlet.